I'm not sure if this is a philosophy question, but it seems to fall within the domain of epistemology, so I thought I'd try to get an answer here. My question arises from several questions I have seen on academia.SE where students try to divine some hidden unstated meaning from basic clear-cut communications. For example, a recent question on academia.SE went like this:

Question: I was recently invited to an on-campus interview after having a skype interview. I noticed, after checking with my referees, that this particular school did not request letters of recommendation for me. I found this odd, any ideas on what it might mean?

Answer in comments: That they want to interview you...

I see many cases like this where people have difficulty accepting clear-cut communications, and seem to bend over backwards to try to find some hidden meaning that is just not there. Is there a name for this type of quixotic quest for hidden meaning?


Several answers are offered in the comments section, but most do not quite fit with what I am looking for. The closest concept to what I am looking for seems to be what has been called the "hermeneutics of suspicion" (hat tip to confused to pointing out this one). Felski (2011) describes it this way:

The “hermeneutics of suspicion” is the name usually bestowed on this technique of reading texts against the grain and between the lines, of cataloging their omissions and laying bare their contradictions, of rubbing in what they fail to know and cannot represent. ... The critic probes for meanings inaccessible to authors as well as ordinary readers, and exposes the text’s complicity in social conditions that it seeks to deny or disavow. Context, as the ampler, more expansive reference point, will invariably trump the claims of the individual text, knowing it far better than it can ever know itself.

This concept gets most of the way to encapsulating what I am looking for, but it not does not necessarily indicate the quixotic nature of the inquiry in the cases that interest me here. Nevertheless, if appears to be the closest philosophical concept to what I am looking for.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.